For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Round and about

A while ago some very good friends of mine came to visit me from Italy and we had a wonderful few days going to different places and enjoying ourselves.

A few nights before, I had been to a "do" at another friends children's school and there on the barbeque they had snake!! I could not believe my eyes!! My friends tried it but me, no thanks, I would rather eat leaves!! :)
At one of the places we went, they had built a platform and you could buy treats for the giraffe and stand there and feed him. Naturally the kids loves this close-up encounter with an animals whose head is usually 20 foot above theirs.
I ended up taking a really CLOSE shot of its mouth. A bit hairy don't you think? LOL!! For more info, click here.
One of the othr places we went they had some Caracal which they fed with small chickens.
They were so eager to get to the food that they would jump up onto the fence to get the food and it gave up nice shots of its claws. For more info, click here.
This Ostrich came to say hello. Must have thought we had food for it too. Click here for more info on them.
Along the way I found this Orange-throated Longclaw. It is the first time I have seen this bird and liked its colors.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vacation time - Day 2

I was privileged to be introduced to Lynda’s study groups of mongoose. Please click here to go to her blog and find out not only about these wonderful animals but also her encounters with other wildlife in the area.
As the name implies, Dwarf Mongoose are the smallest of the species we have here. I estimate them to be a total of about 8 inches in body length including the tail and they are just the cutest little things.
Because of the drought, they have no water and very little food as there are no insects about so she goes every morning to feed them. Not enough so they become dependent on it but enough to keep them alive until the rainy season. They sit and wait in anticipation for the crushed hard-boiled eggs she brings.
As she scatters it on the rock, there is a mad scramble to get at the food. In a way it is sad to think that besides her study groups, how many there are out there starving right now?
Water is probably the most appreciated and they slurp it up gratefully.
This one has a wonderful adaptation to drinking, he sticks his paw and it then licks it off from there. Lynda says it is because the water is sometimes found in crevasse and this is how they would get it out as their heads are too big to fit in the crevasse.
I loved the way this one was stretched out against the sand. He looked like he was soaking up the suns rays. :)
A lot of time is spend grooming themselves and each other. I guess it is hard to lick behind your own ears. LOL!!
These are wonderful little creatures to sit and watch as they play, fight and groom themselves. Then off they go and start digging under leaves and in the sand to find what else they can find to eat.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art of disguise - Part 11

Since our winds and clouds moved in yesterday, I am having internet problems so please forgive me if I cannot comment on your blogs for a few days. I am trying though but it will just not open some. I will be back home on Sunday and catch up on everything.

This one is which is a bit easier to spot than the rest but again, if you do not know what to look for, they can easily be missed. They are classified as bugs (Hempitera) and not (Orthoptera) crickets and grasshoppers.
Cicadas are a well known family who's shrill buzzing on a summer night is very annoying to some people. The males have a pair of circular sound-producing organs that appear as 2 round membranes on either side of the abdomen, each reinforced with a srtong circular ring.
A muscle attached to the centre contracts and the recoil produces a click. Rapid contraction of these muscles produces a continuous noise. Both sexes have ears on the underside of the abdomen.
Males have at least one specific call to which females are attracted. One calling male stimulates others to joing in, forming a chorus.
Newly hatched nymphs dig into the ground using their enlarged fore legs. Here they feed on roots and it takes many years (sometimes over a decade) before they emerge, climb up a tree and moult into adults, leaving the dry skin attached to the bark.
They have two pairs of transparent wings, often attractively marked.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vacation Time -Day 1

The early morning sunrise found me well on my way to my destination. TWO WEEKS in the BUSH!! WOW!! I had been waiting a long time for this. The year to date has been extremely busy and hectic for me and I really needed the rest.
You have heard of The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe? Well here it is!! And you thought it was just a nursery rhyme? Just goes to show we should always believe in fairy tales as the do come true. :)

The last time I was in the area, this was a place were they still hand-made shoes and I was hoping to stop and get a pair as they are SO comfortable but now they use it as the entrance to Echo Cave which is a pity. Although I have bought new hiking shoes, they are not what I want and was really looking forward to seeing what these people had. Oh well .......
Although it is nearly the end of September and our rains should have started weeks ago, the rivers have very little water in them. This, the Olifants (Elephants) River is dry, both upstream ....
and down, there is nothing but sand.
All that is left is a small stream to the one side. At least it is still enough for the animals to have a drink and the crocodiles and hippos to bathe in.
Walking in the beds, there are many wonderful stones to be found.

This is a Red Leafed Rock fig and you can see where it gets its name from. This is not a miniture tree although this specimen is small, about 14-15 feet in height.
A better look at the root formation. They do not require soild to grow in and need very little water to thrive.
Going to stay in the bush for a few days, weeks, months, in order to do photography, there are a few things which are absolutely essential.

1. Hat – this is the top most important thing you should take. Forget your camera if you want to forget something but NOT a hat. Even in winter, the sun can get mighty warm, especially if you are not used to it.
2. This might sound stupid, but next in order of importance is a cotton, long sleeve shirt. You might get hot in it but it prevents you from getting sunburn and in the summer, helps keep mosquitoes from biting.
3. If you are prone to those nasty little things which bite, a good mosquito repellent comes in handy.
4. Wear comfortable walking shoes, preferably some which you have worn many times as this is not the time to get a blister.
5. Always have a bottle of water, even coffee or a beer will do. This comes in handy when you find a nice shady spot and want to take a break.
6. Depending on how long you are going to be out, take a couple of sandwiches along, but even on a short walk, an apple or orange adds to your moisture intake.
7. Now, if you are going to take pictures, please remember to pack in your camera plus some spare batteries and/or an extra memory card. Then don’t forget the binoculars.
8. The time of day you go for a walk is important, early in the morning or late afternoon being the best as then you miss the heat and your light is at its best. Also, early mornings are better to get good bug pictures as they have still not warmed up and are clinging to grass and weeds.

I have seen people going on walks which bog themselves down with all kinds of things including torches, night sticks, bandages, whistles, etc. At the end, their rug sacks are so heavy with things they MIGHT need, they do not enjoy the walk for what it is. By all means talk a walking stick if you feel you need it or anything else you might classify as essential, but remember, you have only two hands and when you want to take a picture, you need those hands to be free.

When doing photography, especially close-ups a few rules go a long way to getting a picture:

1. Wear old clothes so you are not afraid to get down and dirty if you have to.
2. Listen – many, many times, sound is what gives away the location of something, so stop and listen to your surroundings.
3. Look and observe – many times I pick up something just by a color which should not be there or the slight movement of something. For example, today I saw a piece of bark moving. Now as far as I know, bark should not move as it does not have legs so when I stopped and peered down, I discovered the most amazing little insect. Look for leaves which are freshly eaten as this is a good indication there is some kind of bug or beetle having a meal, sometimes under the leaf.
Be attuned to what the birds and animals around tell you. Birds will screech when they see something which is a threat to them such as lizards, raptors etc and an animal will scatter and take off at the faintest sight or sound of a predator.
4. Know where to find things. So often things like spiders are found on flowers as that is where the flying insects come to collect nectar. Lizards like to bask on rocks in the sun and butterflies are attracted to wild flowers or rotting fruit. It is at these places where you will also find things like mantis which prey on the above.
5. Above all, be patient. See where the insects favorite perches are and go and sit there without movement for a while and they will come back to them time and again. Almost all dragonflies have a spot he prefers.
6. Don’t move quickly or make a noise or let your shadow go over the insect. All of these frighten them off very quickly.

So now you know all my tricks and I can add only two more pieces of advice: Ladies, don’t try to go for a walk in high heel shoes and men, wearing socks on a walk at the end of summer is going to get them full of burrs and weeds, so leave them off. LOL!!

Oh and one more thing …… don’t get lost!! :)

And I almost forgot the most important of all ….. enjoy yourself!! I certainly will!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Odds and Ends - Part 12

I am always trying to get a good shot of the moon without much success. Seems like I am good at small, close-up stuff but not large, distant stuff. Maybe it is because I have a lousy lens? Anyway, this is about as good as it gets for me. :)
One night I was trying again and managed to get the leaves of a plant against its background which did not look too bad.
I have no idea what plant this is. It is small and almost like a ground cover but with very hairy leaves which the ants seem to love for some reason.
Poor little locust!! So shy and trying to hide away from me. I have an idea this might be a Desert Locust which are quite common here in our gardens and is of medium size.
This was the srtangest fungi I have seen. It does not have a stem at all so grows very close to the ground and reminded me of potatoes.
They grow as a family and these were almost hidden by the grass. The largest of them (below) is about 5 inches in diameter and very spongy.
This stinkbug has spent the whole winter inside my lounge against the wall and between the bricks. Even with me taking the camera close to it, there was no movement. The days are getting warmer so soon I expect it to move back outside.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Due to the fact that I am now building up too many pictures and not getting to post them, I am going to have to go back to doing a blog every day or else I will have to stop taking pictures for a few months. :)

So starting tomorrow, it will be back to normal for me. I hope I am going to find the time for everything I am trying to do. LOL!! Anyone have some spare hours they can pass over to me? LOL!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Walk 18/4 - Part 3

Reaching the top of the hill I had a lovely view of the countryside. So many of the trees here are evergreen.
Oh good!! A bug!! Can you see it??
Alright, here is a close-up for you. :) It is a newly hatched stink bug. He looks just like the berries he is on and easy to miss.
Some more of the rocks which were spectacular. I was going to crop this ang tell you it was a rock face I scaled. LOL!! If I had taken out the grass behind, you would have believed me but to tell the truth, I have never gone rock climbing and would not even know where to begin. I think I will stick to my walks. :)
This one had the most interesting pattern in it and I wonder what caused it?
More beautiful colors. If they were not so big and heavy, I would have taken some of them home and made a rock garden.
Then it happened!! I was walking along, minding my own business when all of a sudden I felt this grip around my foot and ankle!! I was terrified!! Should I look down and see what it is? Should I try to shake it off and run like hell?? All these thoughts and more flashed across my mind. I glanced down and found it was only a pice of branch I had stepped on and it had caught around my ankle!! Phew!! LOL!!
An interesting beetle which I also cannot find. At first I though it may be one of the scarbs but on closer inspection, I see it is not. It is small, about 1/4 of an inch in bdy length.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Foam Grasshopper (Dictyophorus spumans) Pyrgomorphidae

Pyrgomorphidae (Foam or Lubber Grasshoppers) are distinguished by their bright colors. They can produce a foamy defensive secretion which is toxic to predators.
The grasshopper's nervous system is controlled by ganglia, loose groups of nerve cells which are found in most species more advanced than cnidarians. In grasshoppers, there are ganglia in each segment as well as a larger set in the head, which are considered the brain.
There is also a neuropile in the centre, through which all ganglia channel signals. The sense organs (sensory neurons) are found near the exterior of the body and consist of tiny hairs, which consist of one sense cell and one nerve fibre, which are each specially calibrated to respond to a certain stimulus.
While the sensilla are found all over the body, they are most dense on the antennae, palps (part of the mouth), and cerci (near the posterior). Grasshoppers also have tympanal organs for sound reception. Both these and the sensilla are linked to the brain via the neuropile.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Orchid Show - Part 2

The following text is from a wonderful site called Everything Orchids. Please click on the link for more information. It has all you want to know and more in growing and caring for orchids.

Growing Orchids for Beginners
Thank you for stopping by Everything Orchids! As the name implies, I want to show you everything about how to grow these cuties, such as how to take care of orchids, how to choose a plant, how to grow one indoors or outdoors and what to look for in cut flowers, plus much more!
There are myths about how difficult orchids are, but that’s totally not true. Most are super easy to grow. They have several basic requirements that can be quite easily satisfied. It does not take a high-tech greenhouse or a horticulture scientist to successfully grow and bloom these flowers. If I can do it, you can do it too! This website provides you a wealth of information on orchids and their cultivation.
I have been growing these beauties for about 10 years now. Since my first little baby from Home Depot, I have been so fascinated how interesting and beautiful they are. Each type is so different from another—you have Phalaenopsis that looks like a moth, Brassia that looks like spiders, Paphiopedilum that looks like slippers—yet they all belong to the same family.
Some of them have intoxicating fragrance, and some of them are so small that you have to use a microscope to see them. One thing you can be sure of—you will never get bored by them, because there are as many types as the number of stars!
I never have a greenhouse and never have a big area to grow, so I have to grow them by the windows, under lights indoors or in my small balcony. It all comes back to my point—orchids are easy to grow. You don’t need an elaborate and fancy environment to satisfy their needs! You CAN grow orchids!
Perhaps you just received a Cattleya as a gift and don’t know how to take care of it. Or you always like to grow plants and are interested in trying Cymbidium. Or you just want to grow a Phalaenopsis indoor to brighten the living space.
Whatever the reason, taking care of orchids is easy, and I would love to share my passion and knowledge with you!